Sticking Up for Our Friends
Imagine a very dear friend that you love a great deal. Now imagine that someone is picking on your friend, being cruel to her, bullying her, calling her names. Imagine how indignant you would feel at this bully’s treatment of your friend. I bet you would stand up for your friend, confront the bully, and put an end to this behavior.
Why would you do this? Because you understand that bullying crushes your friend’s spirit and diminishes her light.
The human spirit thrives under love, encouragement, just treatment, and peace. It wilts under attack, violence, and aggression. You would stick up for your friend because you want her to thrive. You want her to be whole and healthy.
Now imagine another scenario with your same friend. This time your friend is not being bullied, but she is being taken advantage of. Let us call your friend Anna, and let us say that you and Anna have another friend, Karen. Imagine that Karen is constantly manipulating Anna and pressuring her to do activities or projects that Karen thinks are important. Anna does not really want to do these things, but Karen pesters her constantly until she acquiesces. I bet that in this situation, you would tell Anna that she has the right to say “No” and that she should not let Karen run her life. You might even tell Karen to back off and leave Anna alone.
Why would you do this? Because you understand that everyone has the right, responsibility, and the opportunity to be their own person. No one is the master of anyone else. You also likely understand that when people violate other people’s boundaries, or they try to control other people’s lives, this prevents other people from being able to become themselves and to pursue their own dreams and set their own goals. The result is that people can live their lives continually in other people’s shadows. This is not right. We were all meant to live in the light equally, becoming who we are together. This is why we stick up for our friends.
In several past posts, I have written about cultivating self-love by cultivating a right view of ourselves, by speaking loving words to ourselves, and by committing to be our own best friend. The fourth way we cultivate self-love is to stick up for ourselves and resist bullies and boundary crashers.
Here is a quick review before we move on:
What is self-love? When we practice self-love, we honor and nurture the light in ourselves and give ourselves the best and most noble gifts. This empowers us to show to love to others and give them the best gifts, too.
But isn’t self-love selfish? Self-love is not the same as selfishness and narcissism.
How do we cultivate self-love?
- Think lovingly of ourselves like we would a small child or friend.
- Speaking loving words to ourselves to nourish our light.
- Commit to being our own best friends.
- Sticking up for ourselves and resisting boundaries and bully-crashers.
The Difficulty We Have Sticking Up for Ourselves
We are often very good at sticking up for our friends and loved ones. We are not always good at sticking up for ourselves. While we recognize that it is wrong for people to bully and crash others’ boundaries, we will often tolerate it when people act this way towards us. For the rest of this post, I will refer to bullies and boundary crashers as controllers because both bullies and boundary crashers do what they do in an attempt to control us for various reasons. Controllers may be family members, partners, friends, or co-workers. They may control us by bullying, by constantly offering unsolicited advice or opinions, by insulting and criticizing, by being obtrusive into our lives.
Controllers are common, and we often tolerate their behavior for several reasons. Perhaps it is such a common and habitual part of our relationships, and we do not even realize it is happening. Perhaps we love the person so much that we would rather tolerate their controlling behavior than stick up for ourselves. Perhaps we are afraid that if we stick up for ourselves, we will lose the people who love us, and we will be alone. Or perhaps we fear the anger and manipulation that often follows when we stand up to controllers.
Why Do People Bully and Crash Boundaries?
It is hard to know why exactly people act like controllers. There are probably many reasons:
Sometimes people do not know who they are, so controlling others give them a sense of purpose and meaning.
Sometimes people are afraid of life and the bad things that may or may not happen, so they try to control others to give themselves some sense of control and peace.
Sometimes people thrive off dominating others.
Sometimes people have been bullied or boundary crashed their whole lives, and so controlling is the only way they know how to live and to relate to other people.
Some people are out to get as much as they can for themselves, and they try to control others to get it.
The good news is that it is possible to stick up for yourself, and to still have meaningful relationships and love that you want. The important news is that it is essential that we learn to stick up for ourselves because it is one of the most important ways we express love to ourselves, and it is also one of the ways that we share our light with the world.
Sticking Up for Yourself is a Gift Both to Yourself and to the World
We may not realize it, but when we stick up for ourselves, we actually create the perfect conditions for us to become ourselves fully and when we do this, we make the world a better place.
Let me talk about YOU for a minute. You are a unique individual for so many reasons. You are unique because you are an individual full of ideas, abilities, and unique personality traits. No one has ever been you in the time and place you are in now. If you commit to being who you are for the sake of your good and the good of the whole world and act on this commitment, you are transforming your corner of the world into a place that is more loving, good, and just for yourself and everyone around you. In this way, you have a great deal of power. It is a type of political power in that you have the ability to transform your corner of the polis—the place where you are.
This is your goal in life, and you want to say “yes” to everything that supports this goal and “no” to everything that works against it. No one can tell you exactly how you are to become your self and transform your part of the world for goodness. It is something you have to figure out for yourself. Controllers will try to tell you how you should live your life and transform your world, but when you let them control you, you are not being you or inhabiting your life fully, so you are not fully developing your ideas, abilities, and personality traits. When this happens, you cannot fully transform your corner of the world for greater goodness. The world needs you and your light. This is why it is important to stick up for yourself and resist controllers.
As an example, consider the story of Anna at the beginning of this post. Anna is actually a gifted writer. She has a deep desire to give people peace and confidence through her writing. Her friend Karen, however, thinks that writing is a waste of time. Karen is a controller and constantly pushes Anna to be more social, take on more projects, and fill her schedule with busyness. If Anna does not stick up for herself, the world will miss out on Anna’s gifts and her light.
I think sometimes we feel guilty saying “no” because we are afraid we are being selfish and that we are there “less” for people. But what if saying “no” is a way we step away from things that are not for us so that we can step into things that are for us? In this way saying “no” is a way we become ourselves more fully and inhabit our lives more powerfully. Referring back to my example of Anna and Karen, when Anna says “no” to Karen, she says “yes” to writing and sharing peace with others. In this way, she inhabits her life more fully, and lights up her corner of the world with goodness and love.
How Do We Stick Up for Ourselves
If you have not been in the habit of sticking up for yourself, it can be difficult to learn how to do it at first. Here are a few steps that may help you.
First, realize that sticking up for yourself is a way you give more of yourself, not less of yourself, to the world. When we say “no” to something, we say “yes” to something else. When you stick up for yourself and say “no” in order to engage in projects and activities that are in line with who you are, you are inhabiting your life and allowing yourself to become fully present in the world. This is loving, not selfish.
Secondly, remember that every human being deserves being dignity and respect because every human is unique and irreplaceable. We treat others with dignity and respect when we honor their autonomy and respect their right to their opinions, their feelings, and to their projects in the world. This does not mean that we must always agree with people or like what they are doing. It also does not mean that we have to hang out with everyone and be their friends. It does mean that we must allow people to live their own lives and that we cannot try to live their lives for them.
If everyone is deserving of dignity and respect, that means you are deserving of dignity and respect. It also means that you have the right to your opinions, your feelings, and your projects, your mistakes. No one can live your life for you. When people try to tell you what to think, how to feel, or what to do, your saying “no” is showing yourself respect and respect to humanity in general.
Third, when it comes to sticking up for yourself, there is not really any one right way to do it. It takes practice, and the more you practice, the more you will figure out the right way to stick up for yourself in certain situations. Sometimes you can respond to controlling with silence. Sometimes you can walk away from a situation. Sometimes you can say to someone, “Thank you for your input, but I have decided I am going to do (whatever it is you are going to do).” Sometimes you can say, “I know you have good intentions, but I feel like you are pressuring me to do (whatever you feel like someone is pressuring you to do).” Often, when you point out the controlling behavior through silence or through words, that can be enough to shut it down, at least for a while.
Sometimes people are so entrenched in their controlling behavior that they are unable or even unwilling to stop it, even if when it is pointed out to them. In this case, it is often necessary for us to stop associating with the people who are unwilling to stop their controlling behavior. This can be very painful if the controller is a long-time friend or loved one. If you find yourself feeling very sad because you have had to stop associating with a controller, please hang in there.
It does not feel like it right now, but your pain will eventually pass. In fact, your painful heart is healing right now. As it heals, you are going to become stronger than you have ever been, and you are going to live more powerfully in your own life than you ever have. The exciting news is that as you start doing this, you are naturally going to draw people to you who are fully inhabiting their life, too. You will build new, powerful, and loving relationships that nurture you and help you become more alive.
Lastly, it is important to note that sometimes when you stop letting people control you, this makes them angry. When this happens, it can feel like you are doing something wrong. Please note, however, that when people spew angry emotions at you and treat you disrespectfully, this is their problem, not yours. Of course people have a right to express hurt feelings. However, it is completely possible to express hurt and sadness without spewing rage, hate, and disrespect at people.
When people spew these toxic emotions at people, they are often (although not always) trying to control. If you are someone who feels really overwhelmed with people’s anger, say to yourself, “Toxic emotions are a control strategy. I will listen to people’s calm expression of their feelings, but I will not subject myself to toxic emotions.” You absolutely have permission to walk away from someone who is trying to control you in this way.
Sticking up for ourselves and saying “no” is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate self-love. Unfortunately, there are many bullies and boundary crashers in the world who would like to tell you what to think, how to feel, and how to live your life. They will try to do this to you if you let them. When you stick up for yourself and say “no”, you take responsibility for your life and inhabit it fully. When you do this, you can fully become yourself and bring your unique talents, ideas, and potential to the world. You will make the world brighter with your light.
If you enjoyed the content of this post, consider sharing it with a friend (and then you do whatever you think is best :). You are the boss of you). You might also like reading How to Handle Bullies.
 The exception, of course, is that when children are very young, their parents need to be the masters of them in one sense. However, even in this case, we realize that the subordination of children to their parents is temporary and that the goal is that children will one day become fully autonomous and independent.
 I realize that some people are afraid to stick up for themselves because they are in an abusive relationship, and they fear physical harm. If this is you, please seek help as soon as you can. You can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline 24/7 and get help and advice.
 Sometimes when people communicate with a great deal of anger and bitterness, it is not because they are trying to control others. Rather, it is because they have not yet learned to communicate their hurt effectively. It is still okay for you refuse to engage with folks in this situation until they have calmed down. It is also okay for you to walk away from these conversations.